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SECTION XXXVI.

The ROMAN CATHOLIC Empire of Popery, although

in a state of rapid decline, yet still exists the chief stumbling block in the way of Christ's Kingdom.

- It is to be broken up by an extraordinary instrument of Providence, working for God the work of vengeance without knowing or designing it.-His typical resemblance to the stone cut without hands, in the wonderful circumstances of bis rise and successful career.

put upon the

THE kingdom of the saints of the Most High, under the theocracy of Christ reigning on earth, whatever sense may be numerous and very extraordinary descriptions of it given by the prophets ; (whether we consider it as consisting in an exalted state of religion and manners only, or as including also great and congenial alterations in the present political relations amongst mankind;) certainly

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never has yet appeared. There are however indications of a preparation now making for its introduction in due time. For as the Roman empire was an obstacle in the way of the kingdom of Antichrist, and it could not be revealed until that was removed, so has the empire of Antichrist ever since been the great stumbling block which must first be taken up out of the way, before the sun of righteousness will arise in his full brightness, “ with healing under his wings,” and dispel the dark clouds of superstition and iniquity, which have for so many ages overshadowed the world.

The decline and fall of this spiritual Roman empire hath been a great while going on, and has advanced to that period of its decay, from whence its ruin will be now hastened on with a rapid progression. Christ hath “ consumed (in a great measure) his enemy with the spirit of his mouth," but he has not yetdestroyed him with the brightness of his coming.The rise of the mystery of iniquity required considerable time before the impost

hume came to a head, and produced the MAN OF SIN; and its wasting away has been very similar. The great difference of opinion where to fix the commencement of the 1260 years assigned him, is the occasion of the uncertainty where it will terminate. Some of the periods very positively laid down in hypothesis for his destruction, have passed very quietly by, and left him still subsisting, * somewhat the worse indeed for the wear and tear of troublesome times.

Howbeit, notwithstanding lord Peter has much reigned in his choleric temper of late, and laid aside many of his crazy tricks, he still exacts from his own domestic as much reverence as in his better days. The Roman catholic faith, though somewhat disguised in protestant countries, is nothing altered in its most objectionable points ; and has made little or no advances to a reconciliation with the gospel, or a renunciation of its own errors. The same standard of faith which was established at the council of Trent, is still the standard of orthodoxy and discipline; and popery is still

* Heu! quantum mutatus ab illo !

a system of antichristianism, in point of doctrine, perhaps as much at this day, as it was in the plenitude of its coercive power.

Antichrist was to practise, and prosper, and wear out the saints of the Most High by spiritual war or persecution, more or less, for 1260 years: but how long before or after his commencement of active operations he was to subsist, it is not said. The indications of his approach appeared very early, and the several ancient heretics were the forerunners of the grand apostacy of popery; the idolatrous service of the mass, and the established creed of the Romish church, being a choice medley made up of a selection from most or all of them,* and consecrated by the decrees of several councils, to be of equal, or even superior authority to the holy scriptures, which condemn them.

* The Popes have revived and broached afresh almost all the monstrous tenets of the ancient heretics,as manifestly appears from the accounts remaming of them, compared with Popery. The VALENTINIANS, MARCIONITES and others, (as is testified by Irenæus lib iii. ch, 1. an- Tertullian in his treatise de prescriptionibus) when by the scriptures they were confuted, did accuse

As it is certain then that the kingdom of the millennium hath not yet commenced, so it is also manifest that the bar in the

way

of

the scriptures of imperfection and obscurity, and boldly affirmed them not to be of sufficient authority to decide all matters of faith. Traditions were introduced by the CARPOCRATIANS, on account of the insufficiency of scripture, as Irenæus, Epiphanius and Tertullian aver. The Pelagians maintained that it was possible for man after the fall, perfectly to fulfil the law of God, and be completely just. The Basilian and Carpocratian heretics would have their doctrines unknown to the vulgar, and prohibited laymen from reading the scriptures.--Irenæus lib. i. ch. 13. The Marcionites, and Manichæans did conceit Christ to have only an imaginary and fantastick body like the transubstantiated body of Popery, The Manichæans, and Tassianı forbid marri. age to the prists --August. Epist. 74, and in Hæres 40. and 46. The Collyridians worshipped the Virgin Mary, and were thence called MARIANI, and by Epiphanius Hares. charged with idol. atry. And some that worshipped angels, were branded in the catalogue of heretics, with the title of angelicio-- August, Hæres. 93. The Gnosticks and Carpocrations, reverenced images, Irenæus. lib. i. ch, 24, Epiphan. Hæres 27. &c.--and the Marcionites were strenuous advocates for virginity and celibacy. &C.-Epiphan. Hæres 22. History of Popery, vol. i. p. 469. See Dr Middleton's exact conformity between Popery and PAGANISM The Munks copyists of the Manichees in their fastings and rejection of marriage. See Bower's history of the Popes, vol ii. p. 27 quarto. - Mental reservation and jesuitical casuistry, adopted from the Priscillianists. eodem, vol. i, p. 250.

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